Tackling this above-the-fold CSS issue

Performance Optimization is somewhat like housekeeping. If you don’t take care of it regularly, the shit piles up. My history of our web performance goes back almost five years now and what started as a blazin’ 94 once was now a 76 while mobile, which was never really good, dropped from the mid-seventies to the high-fifties. Even though I optimize all images and write as less code as possible.

I came across these horrifying numbers because one of our main competitors relaunched recently and while pointing at him and laughing at his numbers (52 Desktop, 51 Mobile) I had to admit that ours aren’t really great either.

Running the Erzgebirge-Palace through PageSpeed Insights spoiled two obvious issues: The long-avoided above-the-fold render-blocking stuff and the trust seal. But that will be a different story, we will focus on the render-blocking css for now.

The core layout for Erzgebirge-Palace is ten years old now and also it has clean markup which made reponsive retrofitting quite easy there is no build process or anything near to it. So the CSS is a little bit messy. Identifying the above-the-fold styles manually was not an option, but hey, Smashing Magazine tackled this issue already two years ago. I came across this article after I unsucessfully tried to run a simple gulp task with the critical plugin by Addy Osmani.

While gulp just spit errors into my console the grunt task by Ben Zörb worked right away and returned a pretty good result. I had to add some more code as there happen things on the page the plugin cannot be aware of as different headers during the holiday season and different headers for different languages. But in the end it was less work than I expected and the result gives me now 92 on Desktop and 91 on Mobile (also resolved the trust seal, though).

All numbers given are from Google PageSpeed Insights. While this tool is ok to do a quick check on your site’s performace you should rely on other tools when actually optimizing your website, my tool of choice here is Webpagetest.

I'm a Web Developer based in Mainz/Germany, working for WIBROS as Lead Developer. I love the Internet, Baseball, Softball, beer and the color orange. I used to drink too much coffee.

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